Monday, May 26, 2014

American Lady Butterfly Loves Pussytoes

Antennaria rosea
We could not have asked for a more perfect Memorial Day weekend weather-wise than what Mother Nature served up this year.  It was just delightful and much of the time was spent in the garden.  We needed that time to do some catching up, after the long winter and petulant spring we've had here in Ohio.

As I was working away, pulling some of the 40 trillion Washington hawthorn seedlings and encroaching grass from the garden beds, I noticed a familiar butterfly fluttering nearby.  It was the first that I'd seen an American Lady this year and she gave me a treat as lovely as the day.

Antennaria rosea has silvery-blue foliage that's a little fuzzy. 

Each year, our pussytoes groundcover (Antennaria rosea) is host to a large number of caterpillars.  I first noticed them several years ago, because they were so numerous.  I took a photo and went inside to see if I could identify which butterfly or moth they belonged to.  Turns out that Antennaria spp. are just what both the Painted Lady and the American Lady like for raising their young.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) caterpillar on Antennaria rosea in June 2010

Until today, I wasn't quite sure which one it was that was munching on our pussytoes.  It can be difficult to tell the adults apart, but I'd never seen either one near the plants - only the caterpillars. (The Painted Lady has five eye spots on the back side of its lower wings, while the American Lady has just two larger ones.)

The two large eye spots on the lower wing identify this as an American Lady butterfly.

There were at least two adult butterflies crawling all over the pussytoes today and I was able to get photos that were good enough to make a positive ID.  I even got a photo of one of them depositing an egg. Soon, we'll be seeing baby American Ladies crawling among the leaves, eating to their hearts' content.

This American Lady butterfly is depositing an egg on the underneath side of a leaf.
Two American Lady butterfly eggs can be seen here.  It's interesting that she laid both of them
right in the crease of the leaf. Sometimes they will deposit the egg on the underneath side.

Are there any butterflies that choose to raise their young in your gardens because you are raising the right plants to host them?


Jenny said...

I didn't know there are pink pussytoes! I have wild ones growing on my land that are white, not much to look at but the rabbits love them. I'll have to watch for caterpillars as well.

Where can you get pink ones?

Kylee Baumle said...

Jenny ~ I've had these for so long now, I don't remember where I got them, but I'm sure it was by mail order. I just did a quick check via Dave's Garden and Joy Creek Nursery near Portland, Oregon, has them available for purchase by mail:

Corner Gardener Sue said...

How exciting! I've had pussytoes for 2 or 3 years now. I'll have to check for caterpillars. I've seen a few swallowtail caterpillars on Golden alexanders, but I see more on the dill that self sows, and the many parsley plants that I have, hoping to have enough for us as well as the caterpillars. Of course, I also have several kinds of milkweed, and get to see monarch cats each year.

PlantPostings said...

So glad to hear you had a great Memorial Day weekend. Ours was near perfect, too, with a blessing of rain at the end. Beautiful butterfly captures, Kylee! How fun to actually see her laying the eggs.

Cubic Zirconia Green said...

Thanks for sharing wonderful information.

RobinL said...

What fun! I recently saw a swallowtail depositing eggs on my dill, and soon was thrilled to find it literally crawling with caterpillars. It just never gets old to me.

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